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The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance Paperback – May 27 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Waitzkin's name may sound familiar—back in 1993, his father wrote about Josh's early years as a chess prodigy in Searching for Bobby Fischer. Now 31, Waitzkin revisits that story from his own perspective and reveals how the fame that followed the movie based on his father's book became one of several obstacles to his further development as a chess master. He turned to tai chi to learn how to relax and feel comfortable in his body, but then his instructor suggested a more competitive form of the discipline called "push hands." Once again, he proved a quick study, and has earned more than a dozen championships in tournament play. Using examples from both his chess and martial arts backgrounds, Waitzkin draws out a series of principles for improving performance in any field. Chapter headings like "Making Smaller Circles" have a kung fu flair, but the themes are elaborated in a practical manner that enhances their universality. Waitzkin's engaging voice and his openness about the limitations he recognized within himself make him a welcome teacher. The concept of incremental progress through diligent practice of the fundamentals isn't new, but Waitzkin certainly gives it a fresh spin. (May 8)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Waitzkin, a champion in chess and martial arts, brings enthusiasm and obvious love of learning to this amazing look at what he aptly describes as the art of learning. He begins by recounting his own quirky journey. At the age of six, Waitzkin learned chess from a motley crew of street hustlers, gamblers, junkies, and artists. Since then, he has been among the highest-ranked chess players. He recounts the distractions of adolescence as well as fame after the publication of his father's book and, later, the film based on it, Searching for Bobby Fischer. He later discovered that chess principles could be applied to learning tai chi. In fact, he found a respect for artistry, meditation, and philosophical devotion within both chess and martial arts and realized the possibility for broader application to learning in general. Waitzkin integrates his personal experiences in mastering chess and tai chi with research on psychology and learning techniques to offer a vibrant and engaging look at the love of learning and the pursuit of excellence. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
If you are one of those people who reads biographies of exceptional individuals trying to extract wisdom to apply to your own life and circumstances then I highly recommend this book to you. It is loaded with concepts that you can take and start personalizing to meet your own ends. If you are a seasoned self-help/lifestyle veteran like myself then I would still recommend this book for the nuggets.
If you want concrete, step by step paths that require small amounts of introspection, then look elsewhere. If you want an amusing story with boatloads of applicability via intense, and most importantly, honest introspection then pick this up immediately.
It is in my top 5 of all of my self-help/lifestyle purchases, perhaps top 3.
“My whole life I had studied techniques, principles, and theory until they were integrated into the unconscious.” – Josh Waitzkin
Joshua Waitzkin was national chess champion in the U.S. 8 times, inspiring the movie “Searching for Bobby Fischer,” and more recently has earned two world champion titles in Pushing Hands, the martial arts version of Tai Chi. It’s fair to say that he knows something about learning.
Quite a bit of The Art of Learning is devoted to Waitzkin’s career in both chess and pushing hands, and unfortunately though enjoyable it is perhaps a bit short on wisdom. Interspersed with that, however, are discussions of how he sees the learning process and the principles he believes underlie expertise in any discipline.
Waitzkin introduces a few vague lists of principles, but in essence argues the key to excellence is the gradual mastery of fundamental principles, over time interlinked into complexity and integrated into our subconscious. The key to such learning is to take the small things you learn and ‘chunk’ them into larger ideas in your memory, ensuring efficient storage and retrieval. As a result, an expert martial artist and a beginner actually perceive different things. A complicated strike may be made up of six parts, but an expert perceives it as one moderately fast attack. The beginner, on the other hand, sees six different moves, all blindingly fast. Mastery of the fundamentals can actually change not just how you perform an event but also how you perceive an event.
Once you’ve achieved this chunking of basic concepts into complicated ones, he argues, you start achieving the deeper mastery critical for progress, and the correct decision can even seem intuitive.Read more ›
However, although Waitzkin never became a world champion or even a grandmaster in chess, he was a better player than most of those with whom he competed. Indeed, he was a National Chess Champion at age nine and won other national titles again another seven times. He also became a master of Tai Chi Chuan and earned 21 National Championships and several World Championships. Finally, he was the subject a book and film based on it, Searching for Bobby Fischer.
In recent years, I have been grateful to Anders Ericsson and his research associates at Florida State University for all that I have learned from them about optimal performance. The key revelations correlate with what Maitzkin shares. For example, the importance of focus and commitment: "My growth became defined by [begin italics] barrierlessness [end italics]. Pure concentration didn't allow thought or false construction to impede my awareness, and I observed clear connections between different life experiences through the common mode of consciousness by which they were perceived."
Also, overcoming exhaustion during practice or competition as he did in finals against "the Buffalo" in Taiwan. Although "spent" and down 2-0 with only seconds remaining, he somehow battled back to tie.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
There are definitely a few good titbits of information that can be used but this book is at least 90% auto-biography. I did enjoy a lot though!Published 5 months ago by Nylac
Great book. I found out about The Art of Learning from another website I follow. They referenced it in the learning material. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Shane Griffin
Amazing read for those interested in improving their performance at truly any skill level. His insights on the learning process and what strategies/tools he uses to sharpen his... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Vikram Kalia
I liked going deep into his learning process. It really opened my eyes up to the mental side of performance.Published 16 months ago by Ben
Lost interest after a few chapters. Doesnt really get going. Maybe I'll wait for the movie.Published 16 months ago by D Jones
Josh Waitzkin speaks from experience. He shows that talent is one thing but thinking and preparation is key. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Norm from Montreal
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